Though the genre of a movie like Ruins isn’t usually marketed at me (To be a little heavy handed, most horror movies, good and bad, seem more and more like voyeuristic dehumanized suffering to me), I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the more grown-up Jena in a theater for the first time, especially in a lead role.
I’m glad I went to see it. To me, she’s looked much different since around the time Saved! came out and I was worried for awhile that, like many successful teen actors, it would be a hump that would be difficult to get over in the eyes of the public and “Hollywood”. But Ruins made her seem , if anything, more glamorous, energetic and accessible than before. It turned out to be surprisingly great casting, as she was able to convey being immoral and sexy early and then seeming pent-up and difficult just by putting on glasses and gritting her teeth without ever undermining the movie’s superficial agenda to make the characters obnoxiously normal (then build your empathy for them as awful things start to happen).
Maybe I was pleasantly surprised that the gore and shock were somewhat minimized, but more so that the strength and humanity of the “victims” was respected more and more as the movie progressed. Some of the most brutal, painful acts were kept offscreen, and very little was demonstrated of the menace, or explained about it, limiting it to a few exciting special effects and not overexposing the tacky idea of evil killer vines.
I thought Jonathan Tucker was very well cast, too. His intensity helped center the movie and draw me into their desperate fight for survival. In most slasher movies, the practical hero does more damage than help, but here his choices and gradual acceptance of the situation was very believable.
On the other side, the two other stars were a little more typical. Laura Ramsey is almost too “hot”, to where as she was bloody and going insane, it looked like some type of fetishised magazine photo shoot. This may be another thing that made the movie go down easy for me, the style was too light to ever be overly dismal or uncomfortable. Shawn Ashmore was the typical quiet dumb type but even that was put to it’s best use as we saw his one redeeming trait was his love and protectiveness for his girlfriend, and how that fit into their tragic fates.
In case I haven’t made it clear, the point of this is how the characters were made more human as the story went on, and more respectable rather than just being the typical corpses-in-waiting, and that went a long way for me; in spite of some of the usual suggestions of puritanical and sexist brutality one expects from a teenage horror flick.
I think that fans of Jena will definitely want to see this, for how she’s developed, how she adapts smartly to a more superficial role, and just how hot she looks now. The only ones who wouldn’t is people who hate shock and gore even more than I do, and I’m not sure many of those people exist. ;-) It was pretty worthwhile.